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A History of Naturism - Timeline


1891 The earliest known naturist club in the world exists in British India. Founded by Charles Edward Gordon Crawford, a widower, who is a District and Sessions Judge for the Bombay Civil Service at Thana. The club's constitution would be acceptable nowadays. His only fellow members are Andrew and Kellogg Calderwood, sons of a missionary. Crawford remarries in 1892 and dies two years later. The club ends about 1892. Its existence has no known influence on later events.

1893 Heinrich Pudor publishes Nackende Menschen: Jauchzen der Zukunst (Naked Mankind: a Leap into the Future), followed in 1906 by two books on Nackt-Kultur (naked culture).

1906 Richard Ungewitter publishes Die Nacktheit (Nakedness) which speedily becomes a best seller.

1912 Marguerite Le Fur publishes "Le Bonheur d'être Nu" in Mercure de France, describing naturism as practised in Germany. Reading about developments in Germany leads Harold Clare Booth to seek information from the German Freya Bund with thoughts of a similar organisation in Britain. Encouragement is given by an article by Bernarr Macfadden, an American, published two years later in Physical Culture, which advocates nudity for children as part of purity in the home.

1914 Booth has a long article on the nude culture movement published in the same magazine. Further letters and articles follow in 1914 and 1915, but the war prevents immediate result.

1921 Revival of public interest in the subject of naturism is slow after the war, but articles begin to appear, written by Dr. Caleb Williams Saleeby and others, in The New Statesman and Health and Efficiency.

1922 Harold Clare Booth, Mark Harold Sorensen and Rex Wellbye found the English Gymnosophist Society for those, mainly men, interested in nude life culture. It meets at the Minerva Cafe in High Holborn. Later renamed the New Gymnosophy Society. By 1926 it meets in Cheapside, London, circulating its own journal and arranging public lectures advocating nudism.

1924 May The Sunlight League, founded by Dr. Saleeby, with its own journal, Sunlight, advocates sunbathing. Saleeby has since 1921 been publishing articles in The New Statesman about the benefits of sunlight.

1924 The Moonella Group, formed from members of the New Gymnosophy Society, begins to use land, which they call The Camp, at Wickford, Essex. This is the first club to exist in Britain. They have strict rules and members have to use club names, Moonella being the club name of the landowner. The club closes in 1926 because of building on adjacent land.

1925 Captain Harold Hubert Vincent, cashiered from the army in 1918, founds the Sun Ray Club, publicly preaches nudism and proposes a march through Hyde Park by 200 naked men and women. He acquires several convictions for soliciting donations, using insulting words etc.

1926 At the end of 1926 a site, found by Booth, is, with the help of a Derbyshire benefactor, bought at Bricket Wood in Hertfordshire and opened for use in May 1927. There are nine original members drawn from the Moonella Group and the site is at first also called The Camp. By 1931 it has developed into a club, named Fouracres, with an elected committee.

1927 The Sun Bathing Society is founded by Barford, who also publishes Sun Bathing Review, to promote the practice of active sun and air bathing among families and young children, using the new scanty bathing costumes. The summer heatwave in 1928 encourages public tolerance. He wins influential support and organises regular meetings at Sun Lodge in Upper Norwood, South London. The five annual conferences of the Society receive favourable publicity. For several years the Sun Bathing Society organises successful lectures and meetings in London in the winter, Barford gives opportunities for those who wish to progress from bathing costumes to nudity and many do so.

1927 An English translation of Suren's Man and Sunlight is published with the approval of Dean Inge, Dean of St. Paul's, who declares that "The new freedom of the body which is sweeping Europe is a splendid omen of increasing health".

1928 Charles & Dorothy Macaskie purchase 12 acres of land in Bricket Wood, which they call Spielplatz, They go to live there the next year and by 1930 are inviting friends to join them.

1930 The owner of land at a reservoir near the Welsh Harp in Hendon, Middlesex, where there has since 1921 been limited sunbathing, modelled on practice in Germany and Switzerland, allows young unemployed people to use shacks on his property for sunbathing. Press publicity attracts others to join them but also stirs up public opposition. In June about 250 sunbathers, some of them nude, are mobbed by a crowd of 200 people who invade the private land. Some at least of the 250 are members of Vincent's Sun Ray Club. Both police and press give some support to the sunbathers, and more people join the group as a result.

1930 Sep The Sun Ray Club and New Health Society is formed, becoming in 1931 the National Sun and Air Association. It immediately begins a national advertising campaign, as well as running a popular gymnasium at Westbourne Grove, and later an indoor club at Cricklewood, both in London. It ceases to meet about 1940.

1930 Booth finds a site at Sunhill near Sidcup in Kent, and this becomes the Arcadians Club which continues until at least 1945.

1931 Among the Nudists by an American couple, Frances & Mason Merrill published in London. It gives a full and fair account of nudism at that time, though England naturally receives little attention. It is the first of several books of varying worth on nudism, published in the 1930s.

1931 The Yew Tree Club is opened, under the auspices of the Sunbathing Society, at Croydon, Surrey. Mornings are at first devoted to physical culture and nudity is allowed on part of the site in the afternoon, but the club gradually becomes completely nudist.

1931-32 Health & Efficiency, originally a health and fitness magazine, becomes entirely nudist.

1932 Mar A letter is published in The Times, in support of Barford's Sun Bathing Society, demanding facilities for air bathing on decent and wholesome lines. Signatories include C.E.M.Joad, George Bernard Shaw, Laurence Housman, Julian Huxley, Vera Britain and Beverley Nichols amongst other well-known names of the period.

1933 Woodside in the Isle of Wight opens as a naturist holiday resort. Barford founds Sun Bathing Review, which he edits until 1938, It continues publication until 1959.

1934 The Lotus League owned by Mrs. Denise Bedingfield, operates in Finchley until 1939. Before moving to Finchley it was called the League of Light.

1936 The Sun Bathing Society is so successful that, when 21 clubs exist, Barford disbands it, believing that it has to a great extent fulfilled its purpose. If the Society had continued its propaganda would public attitudes have been more favourable than they have been and would naturism in Britain have won a standing similar to that enjoyed in France and Germany?

1937 Membership of the National Sun & Air Association is 2,350, and it has an office in London with a secretary and a typist. Many clubs founded under its inspiration show their origin by the words "Sun and Air" in their names.

1943 Feb The British Sun Bathing Society is formed, on the initiative of the Arcadians Club (of Sunhill), with both club and individual (associate) members. The first AGM is held that October, when 23 clubs are members. By the next AGM there are 615 associate members.

1949 Sheplegh Court in Devon opens as a naturist hotel. It finally closes about 1987.

1951 Festival of Naturism held at North Kent Sun Club, coinciding with the Festival of Britain

1951 Sep BSBA organise an international conference in London, attended by worldwide naturist leaders. A further conference agreed to be held in Switzerland in 1952, so leading to the formation of the International Naturist Federation.

1953 Oct Ten clubs not affiliated to BSBA hold a Conference of Sun Clubs at the Cora Hotel in London.

1954 Apr The Federation of British Sun Clubs is inaugurated by thirteen clubs at a meeting at the Kenilworth Hotel.

1957 Garden of Eden, a film made in association with the American Sunbathing Association in 1955, released in Britain. According to the National Film Bulletin it shows disarming incompetence, astonishing amateurishness and oozes sweetness and light.

1958 Aug The sixth INF Congress held in the grounds of Woburn Abbey, the Duke of Bedford's house.

1958 Nudist Paradise is the first British film to be generally released. Filmed at Spielplatz and Woburn, the Duke of Bedford provides the prologue. The National Film Bulletin says it is inept, the editing incompetent and its motives rather suspect.

1960 Travelling Light, the first genuine British naturist film, is released. It is produced by Michael Keatering [pseudonym of Craven Walker].

1961 BSBA Annual Conference agrees that the term nudist is inappropriate and should be discarded in favour of naturist.

1962 Feb BSBA and FBSC each agree to make arrangements for the union of their organisations as a club controlled organisation, to take effect in 1964.

1964 May Member clubs of both organisations, meeting at the Royal Hotel, London, agree to their union on 1st July under the name of Central Council for British Naturism. 72 clubs are members by the time of the AGM in September.

1965 Adventurers Sun Club is the first to obtain permission from a local authority to hire a public bath, at Maidstone, Kent, for naturist use.

1970 Aug The 12th INF Congress held at North Kent Sun Club

1978 Hastings Borough Council approve the first naturist beach in Britain, at Fairlight Cove. The 16th INF Congress held at South Hants Sun Club

1979 Jan "Let's Go Naked" an unbiased and well researched programme about naturism at home and abroad shown on BBC1 Irvine (soon lost) and Stevenston in Ayrshire, Cleat's Shore on the Isle of Arran, Corton Beach near Lowestoft, Swalecliffe near Whitstable and Leysdown in the Isle of Sheppey are also approved as naturist beaches.

1980 Apr A beach on Brighton front opened for naturist use without ceremony, having been approved by Brighton Council the year before. On the same day Fraisthorpe near Bridlington is opened for naturists.

1982 Adam Clapham and Robin Constable write As Nature Intended, following an unbiased programme on naturism on BBC TV.

1995 CCBN employs a Parliamentary lobbyist.

1998 The AGM of CCBN agrees by a large majority that national officers are to be elected by popular vote of all members. Extended in 1999 to election of Regional Councillors.

1999 Naturist relay team swims the Channel. Similar events in later years around the Isle of Wight and along Loch Ness.

2000 Morfa Dyffryn near Barmouth approved as a naturist beach - the first in Wales.

2002 Persil request CCBN sponsorship for their product

2003 Apr Chairman of CCBN gives evidence to the Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons in connection with the Sexual Offences Bill.

2004 CCBN employs a Commercial Manager, and then an Advertising Manager.

2005 Bare Britain, describing beaches, clubs and venues, published by Lifestyle Press Ltd..in association with CCBN. Open naturist day held at Abbey House Gardens, Malmesbury (since repeated more than once each year). A national charity is recommended for support by members (since repeated each year)

2006 Naturist evening at York Maize Maze and garden party at Castle Howard. Alton Towers organises a naturist weekend. (These events are repeated in subsequent years.)

2007 Eden Project in Cornwall hosts a naturist evening, organised by Red Letter Days, a commercial company. CCBN organises an accompanying "Nudefest" weekend at a nearby campsite. (Nudefest is repeated in following years.)

2008 Naturist story lines appear in some TV series and some TV presenters show support for naturism.

2009 Central Council for British Naturism (CCBN) changes its name to British Naturism (BN).

2010 British Naturism is formed as a company limited by guarantee to take the place of the association founded in 1964. It remains a members' organisation.

With apologies for the inevitable errors and omissions.


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